News & community - Update

VIDEA and Raptim Work Together on Global Solidarity Challenge

For the past 5 years, VIDEA’s Global Solidarity Challenge has helped raise more than $150,000 to support gender and human rights based programs. Part of this event allows one participant to visit VIDEA’s overseas programs. Raptim Humanitarian Travel was proud to work with VIDEA and help make this visit possible for one lucky winner. Last year Addy Trevealen was chosen for the trip- read more about his experience in his own words…

My name is Addy Treleaven and I was the incredibly lucky name to be drawn in the annual Global Solidarity Contest draw to visit a VIDEA project. During my visit, I had the opportunity to travel across Zambia and meet with some amazing people while taking in the stunning landscape.  Below is a letter I wrote home while visiting Western Province.  I hope it provides a small window into my experience.  A huge thank-you once again to VIDEA for the opportunity and to Lynn, Cathy and Anne for being such great travel companions!

Nov 26, 2015 - I'm writing to you from inside my mosquito net in Lyamatinga, a small village in Senanga district, about 600km west of Lusaka. It's incredibly hot here. At least 30 degrees still and the sun has been down for hours. Not sure how I'm going to sleep yet. On a lighter note (pun intended?), the scenery is stunning here in Western Province. Specifically, the small group of rural villages that rest along the flood plains below Lyamatinga have cemented themselves in my memory as one of the most beautiful places I've ever witnessed. I say this without hyperbole. It's seriously hot in here. I feel like I'm in a sauna. I don't remember south[ern] Africa ever being quite this bad.

We spent today meeting with the local community basket weavers of Lyamatinga.  The weavers that have worked closely with VIDEA partner organization 'Women for Change', a Zambian gender focused NGO, explained to us the importance of the baskets to their community, and shared ideas that they had for the future. These are the same baskets that we see at the VIDEA Fair Trade Fair each year by the way!  Pretty cool to see where they come from and how important the industry is to the local community.

When we were done our meeting with the weavers, we followed the community youth group down towards the flood plains so they could show us a chicken coop they had built from VIDEA funding. As we walked down the hill and made our way around the first corner, I remember suddenly feeling swallowed up by the colour green.The green stretched in all directions and was peppered with mango trees, winding streams, wandering cows and small collections of straw huts. We had been traveling on the edge of the Kalahari [in Botswana] for a few days now and it'd been a while since I'd seen a surface that wasn't sand. It was a welcome surprise.

Later that afternoon we stayed on the floodplains and watched the youth group play soccer under an enormous rainbow. I tried my best to organize some smaller games with the younger kids and was impressed by their skills. Of all the kids I've worked with around the world, these were the first ones I've met that hadn't heard of Ronaldo or Messi. I think this is going to be my new measuring tool to determine how remote an area I'm in.

Following the match, Mr Simaye (our wonderful driver and field officer from Women For Change) drove us deep into the bush to visit the village of a man I had spent time with earlier in the day named Mati. As Mati had explained to me when we first met, he was once essentially homeless.  He spent most of his days just wandering the streets messing around with his friends until he connected with Women for Change. Women for Change sponsored him through a carpentry program in Mongu (the largest city in Western Province) and Mati has since run with the opportunity, training other youth carpenters, and running his own successful carpentry business.

On the way to Mati's village, Mr Simaye stopped to pick up some kids who were walking through the forest on their way back home. As the truck trudged through the sand and the kids bounced around in the back of the pickup, it was explained to me that all these children live 7-10kms away from their school and were just arriving back home now. They had literally hours of walking across the hot sand each day in order to get to their school. As a result of this, most kids, including Mati's daughter I would find out, do not start their formal education until they are 8 or 9 years of age. As Zambia requires fees to be paid for high school students, most are also unable to finish.

Mati's village was the most beautiful one yet. His family's hut, situated under the arms of a mango tree, I noticed had three small solar panels on the roof. A success story in the community, Mati has bought the panels to help charge cellphones for the entire village. Outside of the panels, the community has no electricity or running water. Instead, fires and a nearby river are used to cook and prepare food and water.  After showing us his work space, Mati introduces us to his beautiful wife and daughter. He explained to me that they won't have another child until they can make sure they have enough funds saved up for her to attend high school. Truly a leader in his community!

On the drive home, I hung my head out the window like a dog and tried to soak up everything that was left of the day. When the sun fell, I stayed up with the kids and, with my extremely limited Lozi (the local language in the region), I taught the youngest ones a version of Duck, Duck Goose in the dark using my headlamp for light. When we grew tired, I taught them how to make shadow puppets with their hands and we took turns chasing each other's silhouettes across the recently chilled sand.  Once it was getting late, I sent them home (this was not an easy task I assure you) and cooled off with a bucket shower in the roofless hut used for bathing.  I've never seen stars as bright as the ones that shone tonight. Some evenings I swear there's magic in the air.  I've had a lot of them lately.